Today’s entry is part of a periodic series of observations about changes in the world’s climate that will affect all of us, old and young alike. The series bends toward a key question: As God’s people, what can we think or do about these matters? Today’s entry: How to pay attention to these facts?
The stark conclusions of the *Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA), Volume II seem so astounding that they’re hard for me to take in. A kind of cognitive bias can fog my brain when I read deeply into this document: “This can’t be happening to me, not so soon and not so drastically.” It’s hard to listen to sobering warnings about what lies ahead.
This report is a wake-up call. It reminds me of other times in life when I’ve come face-to-face with realities that won’t step aside. The loud ones are easy to name: the non-sustainability of our parish school; a cancer diagnosis; the death of my father or the end of my employment at the Lutheran Church in America. In those cases, there was no denying that something had to change. Quieter wake-ups have also occurred throughout my life: Hard choices about retiring; the ineptitude of a boss; whether to accept or seek a new vocation.
In each of the many wake-up moments in my life, I’ve usually been able to see a way around what seemed almost impossible to surmount. In each of these occasions, there were enough people around me who were also listening; we could form a mutually encouraging context for action. We could find bits and pieces of hope that made it possible for us to prevail during troubling circumstances.
I hope the recent NCA announcement works the same way—that a large number of us will come together to listen carefully to what’s being reported. That we’ll not stop at earnest hand-wringing—a necessary first reaction—but move together toward positive actions suggested by this report. (In the NCA, you’ll find them under the designation, “adaptations”, a very hopeful way to describe lifestyle changes!)
A first step I’m still engaged in: Reading through the report to get more than just a snapshot of what we’re now facing in the world’s climate. Another first step: To find some like-minded folks who have also listened to what the NCA scientists/writers have given us. Then to engage in conversations about our most heartfelt reactions to what we’ve read.
This report invites emotional reactions, so those conversations are going to be more than intellectual daytrips. Because I’m heading into the final decades of my life, whatever I feel and whatever I do has to work towards the greatest good. I won’t be able to save the entire world, neither by my earnest listening nor by my individual actions. That’s why it’s important that I choose carefully who my fellow-listeners are. Right now, I’m thinking they could be some folks in my congregation, a local environmental effort or the chapter of a national or international organization that already had some experience in taking action.
One very sober part of this whole matter is that the steps that are necessary for the world’s climate NOT to rise past the two-degree temperature benchmark—these actions will likely require more than simple shifts in my lifestyle. “What’s next” may require a larger-scale change. That’s the daunting part, and perhaps a factor that might keep me from listening well.
How about you? What’s your reaction to the NCA report, and your own ways of listening and responding to what you’ve encountered there?
I’m curious to know.
(Next time: The hard part)
*You can find the most easily accessed portions 4th National Climate Change Assessment at www.nca2018.globalchange.gov, in Volume II. The extensive supportive data is in Volume I.
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